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Clemson College Republicans statement on drag show sparks multi-campus debate

Photo courtesy of TigerLive. The poster for the ninth annual TigerLive drag show, featuring drag queen Monét X Change. The show, as well as the responses to it, created controversy beyond the campus of Clemson University.

On April 10, the Clemson College Republicans released a statement via their Instagram account, @clemsoncollegerep. This statement addressed the ninth annual drag show put on by TigerLive, the entertainment sect of Clemson University.

A drag show involves performances, often including singing and dancing, with performers dressed in drag clothing. Drag sometimes consists of the performers dressing using a gender expression other than their gender identity and has its roots in LGBTQ+ history, particularly with gay men and transgender women, though not exclusively.

The statement described the show as “unsurprisingly…chock-full of sexual degeneracy that spits in the face of the Christian population that currently attends Clemson University,” and complained about the e-mail advertisements for the show, which it claimed students cannot opt out of receiving.

“The Clemson College Republicans strongly condemn this abhorrent event and all of its participants,” the statement read. “We are truly disappointed that Clemson University has chosen to promote this kind of content.”

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“Many of the event’s participants promote transgenderism and other deviant forms of sexual licentiousness,” the statement continued. “Drag and transgenderism promotes sexual perversion and the degradation of the moral principles which have set this country apart from the rest of the world.”

The Instagram post also featured the show’s poster and two videos recorded at the show, both of which featured performers dressed in drag clothing.

Shortly after being posted, the statement was met with lots of attention, garnering some support but larger amounts of backlash. As of April 25, the post acquired 6,899 comments and 1,977 likes. Some of the responses, including comments and shares on Instagram stories, were from Wofford students.

“The environment around campus is tense lately,” said Clemson student Clara Nichols ’24. “Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but the Clemson College Republicans’ blatant hate towards the people of the LGBTQ+ community has caused uprising among the community and their allies.”

Clemson’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) released a statement in response on their own Instagram account, @ydsaclemson. The statement condemned the “hate-speech filled” statement made by the Clemson College Republicans, as well as stating that YDSA “stands in solidarity with the LGBTIA+ community.”

YDSA’s response continued to say that the drag show “provided a fun and judgment-free experience for students,” and demanded that the university condemn the statement made by the Clemson College Republicans. The response was followed by three memes lampooning the latter organization.

Though YDSA’s post was mostly met with positive reception, some viewers disliked the statement, with one commenting, “imagine the outrage if there was a ‘straight week’ on campus. Heads would explode.”

 The commenter continued to claim that they do not feel as though all ideologies are accepted on Clemson’s campus.

A statement was also released by Clemson Black Student Union (@clemsonbsu) on Apr. 11, which claimed the statement by Clemson College Republicans was “crude, cruel and undermines the inclusivity Clemson University is ‘trying’ to adapt.”

Though no official statements have been made by Wofford organizations on the issue, the various statements gained heavy attention from Wofford students. Wofford College Republicans were contacted for comment but did not respond.

Some comments from Wofford students underneath the Clemson College Republicans’ original post included “(stop) using religion to justify homophobia and transphobia,” “you wanna be oppressed so bad” and “disgusting.”

Other comments, being the vast minority, hold remarks such as, “W statement, W organization. It’s time for conservative organizations to stand up for their morals and not let degeneracy reign supreme.”

Comments also began to attack the Clemson College Republicans. 

“Get a damn grip on reality,” one Wofford student’s comment read. “If you can’t handle co-existing with people of different identities than yours, then maybe don’t go to college, or even don’t work…that way you can live in your small, sad little bigoted bubble where you refuse to have any critical thinking skills.”

L. Christopher Miller, vice president and dean of students at Clemson, sent out a letter to students that recognized the tension between students over the issue, but asked students to “be civil with each other” and “be mindful of how we communicate and express our ideas.”

The Clemson College Republicans posted a follow-up statement on April 13 standing by the original statement.

“We will never apologize for taking a stand against anything we believe to be immoral or perverse,” the second statement read. “We will never condone the perversion of natural law, be it through homosexuality, transgenderism, transvestism, or other such distortions.”

The statement further claimed that opposers of the original statement had called for the banishment of the organization from campus, as well as threats of physical violence. 

The chair of the organization, “Fish” Belk ‘23, was contacted for comment, but declined and deferred to the Apr. 13 statement.

According to an article by David Ferrara ‘23, editor-in-chief of Clemson’s student newspaper, The Tiger, Clemson’s Office of Access and Equity stated that the original post by Clemson College Republicans was not in violation of Title IX, and that because Clemson is a public institution, First Amendment rights apply.

Despite the university’s official stance on the matter, a “Take Back Pride” march was organized in response to the Clemson College Republicans’ statement and the university stance. The march around the university’s campus had over 800 participants and was organized by a few dozen students, including Matthew Jordan ’22.

Jordan, who serves on the Clemson Undergraduate Student Government as the Social Justice Council Chair and a member of the Council of Diversity Affairs, felt as though events like the drag show are extremely important and create a more inclusive environment, both for queer students and non-queer students looking to engage with and appreciate queer culture.

“While Clemson is a public, secular institution, it has historically served as a safe-haven for Christians and continues to operate in their favor,” said Jordan. “With this understanding, events such as this are in no way marginalizing or oppressive toward Clemson’s Christian population.”

“I found CCR’s statement to be particularly frustrating because they were claiming to be alienated while actively and intentionally targeting and alienating the queer community,” Jordan continued. “Not to mention several of their claims were inaccurate, as most drag queens do not identify as transgender.”

“I think it’s important for people to understand that regardless of your personal or political beliefs, everyone deserves to be treated with respect,” Jordan said.

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